Ancient Egypt Lessons
Legends say that Egypt was once two kingdoms, an lower kingdom in the north and an upper kingdom in the south. Southern Egypt is on higher land than northern Egypt. This is why the Nile River flows north. Menes (MEN-es) came from a village in Upper Egypt. about 3100BC . Menes conquered Lower Egypt and became the first pharaoh of a united Egypt. Menes wore a double crown of red and white that symbolized the unification of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. The crown was believed to have magic powers, and was the one item a pharaoh could not take with him to the afterlife. Legends say that Menes ruled Egypt for 62 years and was killed by a hippopotamus.
Royal families of the New Kingdom often intermarried because they did not want to produce children with common people. This was the case for Thutmose II, a pharaoh who lived around 1500BC. Thutmose married his half-sister Hatshepsut. Thutmose II had a son, Thutmose III, by a another wife. When Thutmose II died his son, Thutmose III was too young to rule, so Hatshepsut was appointed regent because of the boy's young age. A regent is someone who rules for a monarch if they are too young to rule. Dressed in men's attire Hatshepsut ruled Egypt as pharaoh. Some statues depict her wearing a false beard because a beard was a symbol of the pharaoh's power. Once Thutmose III was old enough, he and Hatshepsut ruled Egypt together, but when Hapshepsut died, Thutmose destroyed Hatshepsut's shrines and statues.
The ancient Egyptians were polytheistic, which means they believed in many gods, but about 1350BC, the pharaoh Amunhotep IV came to believe that Aton, a god of the sun, controlled all of the other gods. Amunhotep IV changed his name to Akhenaton, a name that means "he who is beneficial to Aton." Akhenaton moved the capital to the desert, seized the temples to other gods and removed the Egyptians priests from power, and forbade the people from worshipping any god by Aton. Akhenaton and his queen, Nefriti built great statues to Aton and ordered that statues honoring any other god be destroyed. Most Egyptians did not take the faith of their leaders, and after their deaths, statues of Aton were destroyed.
A nine-year-old by named Tutankhamen became pharaoh shortly after Akhenaton's death. The "boy king" never became a "man king" because he died of a head injury only nine years into his rule. Tutankhamen is remembered most for the treasures found in his tomb. Most of the pyramids were robbed over the centuries, but by accident Tutankhamen's tomb remained intact because it was buried by rock chips dumped from the cutting of a tomb of a later pharaoh. Tutankhamen's treasures remained hidden for more than three thousand years until they were discovered by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922.
Egypt's most powerful pharaoh was Ramses II, who led armies that conquered many faraway lands. Ramses II did not want to make the lands he conquered part of Egypt, because the ancient Egyptians believed their land and culture was superior to all others. Instead, Ramses II's army forced the conquered lands to pay tribute. Tribute is payment for protection. Ramses II used his wealth to build palaces and temples throughout Egypt. By the time of his death in 1213BC, Ramses II built more monuments than any other pharaoh.
Listen as Mr. Dowling reads this lesson.